The Green Bay Packers Offensive Line Bounces Back After Rough Start
By Dan Dahlke
After a slow start, the Packers offensive line protected Aaron Rodgers well on Sunday.
Brian Jopek photograph
The Green Bay Packers won in convincing fashion against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. The 38-20 score doesn’t quite reflect Green Bay’s dominance throughout the game.
It was the first time in Packers’ history that they’ve had both a 400-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher.
Anyone watching the game or checking the stat sheet knows Aaron Rodgers had a career day with 480 yards passing and four touchdowns with an impressive 146 passer rating. James Starks also had a great day on the ground, recording 132 yards rushing and breaking the long-standing streak of 44 games without a back going over the century mark.
What these stats don’t show is the performance of the offensive line and their ability to overcome a rocky start. They played just as an integral part to the offense’s 580-yard day as anyone else on the field.
Yes, the offensive line had their share of struggles. They gave up four sacks, which isn’t something to be proud of, but considering the amount of times Rodgers dropped back to pass and the number of times Washington blitzed, this number really could have been much worse.
Things were looking shaky for the offensive line at the end of the Packers’ first drive in the game. After working their way all the way down inside the opponent’s red zone, Green Bay’s drive stalled after giving up back-to-back sacks on first and second down to outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
On the first sack, Don Barclay was beat bad on an edge rush and didn’t give Rodgers a chance to avoid the pressure. On the next play, the Redskins ran a stunt and Kerrigan come down the middle of the line untouched. From the tape, it appeared Evan Dietrich-Smith was late in picking up the blitzing linebacker, but I’ll leave assigning responsibility to the coaches.
Things looked even more bleak on the Packers’ next drive. On the first play of the drive, Brian Orakpo beat rookie tackle David Bakhtiari and sacked Rodgers for a 12-yard loss. A few plays later Barclay was called for a false start on a third-and-long. These errors put the Packers in a hole too big to overcome and they punted on their second drive of the game.
To start off the game the Packers’ offensive line wasn’t looking good. They were giving up way too much pressure and making mental errors that were killing the offense’s progress. Green Bay also only managed 13 yards rushing on the first two drives.
However, the line got settled in by the Packers’ third drive and put in a dominant performance the remainder of the game. They kept a talented Washington pass rush at bay and only allowed one sack the rest of game, which came on a defensive back blitz.
The offensive line overpowered the Washington front seven and led the way for 139 yards on the ground and an impressive 5.8 yard rushing average. Granted, the Redskins defense hasn’t looked real impressive this season, but their rushing defense did rank fifth in the league last year and they were loading the box throughout the game to stop the run.
The line opened holes for Starks to run through and gave Rodgers enough time to pick apart the Redskins’ secondary to mount an impressive 31-0 lead by the middle of the third quarter. But the apex of the offensive line’s performance came on an 32-yard touchdown run by Starks late in the third quarter to put the game away for good.
Just as the Redskins began showing a little life, the Packers’ line, led by Dietrich-Smith and Josh Sitton, cleared a path for Starks off the right side of the line for the go ahead score. It was only fitting that this touchdown run was also the one that put Starks over the century mark and sealed the win for Green Bay.
The Packers line will have their hands full again in week three against Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson, but if they continue to build off their performance from the first two weeks of the season, they should be up for the challenge.